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The iOS Tightrope – Between Devs and Users

by on June 14th, 2011

You can say a lot of things about iOS 5. You can say that it’s trying to play catch up with Android. You can even say it’s a great leap forward for the platform; ensuring it stays the leader in the mobile OS space. What I’ve heard a lot of, however, is how Apple has effectively crushed their developer base and stolen/incorporated existing 3rd party app functionality into the iOS core.

On the surface, it very much seems like Apple did rip off a number of developers (and I’m not going to soften the blow on that). However, it’s quite easy to view this as a pro-consumer move to provide a better product.

Many of the new bells and whistles in iOS 5 were predominantly exclusive to jailbroken devices. The new (and highly slickified) notifications system is similar to Peter Hajas’ MobileNotifier system (who now works for Apple). WiFi syncing has been around for about a year for jailbreakers too. By bringing these features to the core iOS platform, Apple has effectively listened to their core base of users, and it is ultimately to their benefit. After all, sideloading jailbroken apps onto your iDevice can have a significant number of drawbacks (including exposing your iDevice to known vulnerabilities that may open up more vulnerabilities on your machine). By bringing these features into iOS, Apple is dissuading iOS owners from potentially harming their iPhones, iPads, etc. while providing the same (if not better, in my opinion) feature set that jailbreakers currently have access to. It is Apple’s modus operandi to continually improve the overall iOS user experience, and let’s never forget that.

At the end of the day, who would you trust more to deliver features that are safe and stable for use? The folks who built the system from the ground up, or some hackers who exploited the system and bent it to their wills?

Mind you, I’m not here to defend Apple towards the developers themselves. It’s simply abhorrent to treat different jailbreak app developers in radically different ways. Hiring Peter Hajas was a great move! However, blatantly ripping off Greg Hughes’ WiFi Sync app (even down to the functionality logo) is inexcusable and condemnable. At the very least, compensate Hughes for some portion of his efforts. This, unfortunately, is the type of hypocrisy that tends to land Apple in hot water.

At the end of the day, Apple is like any other tech behemoth and will continue to incrementally innovate their devices based on the market needs. It’s easy to tell ourselves that Apple is a truly revolutionary and innovative company, but let’s not forget that many of today’s technical marvels come from the combining and integrating the works of many many other people. At the very least, let’s not be dicks about it.

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Posted under: Jailbreaking